Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem (2 Kings 18-19)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.  Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpses of the dead."  (2 Kings 19:35 NAB)

            This passage is part of a larger story, concerning King Hezekiah's conflict with King Sennacherib of Assyria.  You can read the full story here:

            King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned circa 716-687 BCE), witnessed the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BCE.  In 701 BCE, after capturing all the fortified cities of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent messengers to Hezekiah to threaten Jerusalem.  The field commander threatened Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem publicly, in their language, in front of the city walls (2 Kings 18:17-37, NIV).  It was Sennacherib's intention to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity, as the Israelites had been conquered.  Among other things, the Assyrian field commander told the people of Jerusalem: “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” (2 Kings 18:27, NIV).  The field commander urged the people to betray their king and surrender to Sennacherib, or face destruction.  Worst of all, he repeated Sennacherib's message of blasphemy, insulting not only Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem, but God himself.  “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?" (2 Kings 18:32-33, NIV).  In saying such things, Sennacherib and his men were openly mocking the God who created them, and falsely boasting that they were more powerful.
            In response to these threats and insults, King Hezekiah prayed for God to deliver them: "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 'Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.  It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.  Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.'” (2 Kings 19:14-19, NIV). 
            God heard Sennacherib's insults and Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance, and he responded through the prophet Isaiah with a message to Sennacherib: "Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?  Against the Holy One of Israel!... Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” (2 Kings 19:22, 32-34, NIV).  That very night, God sent his angel, who took the lives of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, sending a powerful message not only to Sennacherib, but to people of all nations: God does not tolerate threats and abuse against his people, nor does he tolerate being mocked. 
            After this incident, Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem and returned to Nineveh.  20 years later, in 681 BCE, he was murdered by two of his sons, Adrammelek (aka Ardi-Mulishi) and Sharezer (2 Kings 19:36-37).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jeroboam's Sin (1 Kings 11-15)

The following quote is taken from

"God Kills An Extended Family - "You have done more evil than all who lived before you.  You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves.  And since you have turned your back on me, I will bring disaster on your dynasty and kill all your sons, slave or free alike.  I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone.  I, the LORD, vow that the members of your family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.'"  Then Ahijah said to Jeroboam's wife, "Go on home, and when you enter the city, the child will die.  All Israel will mourn for him and bury him.  He is the only member of your family who will have a proper burial, for this child is the only good thing that the LORD, the God of Israel, sees in the entire family of Jeroboam.  And the LORD will raise up a king over Israel who will destroy the family of Jeroboam.  This will happen today, even now!  Then the LORD will shake Israel like a reed whipped about in a stream.  He will uproot the people of Israel from this good land that he gave their ancestors and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, for they have angered the LORD by worshiping Asherah poles.  He will abandon Israel because Jeroboam sinned and made all of Israel sin along with him."  (1 Kings 14:9-16 NLT)

You can read the entire story of King Jeroboam here:

            King Jeroboam I of Israel (reigned circa 931-910 BCE) was the first king of Israel during the time period of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  He became king because of the actions of King Solomon (reigned circa 970-931 BCE), who angered God by taking multiple wives and following them in committing idolatry, which was a violation of the covenant with God (1 Kings 11:1-13).  Because of Solomon's sin, God determined to take ten tribes of his kingdom away from his son and give them to another king.
            God chose Jeroboam, one of Solomon's officials, to become the king of ten tribes of Israel.  He sent Ahijah the prophet to deliver the message to Jeroboam: "However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel.  If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you" (1 Kings 11:37-38, NIV). 
            Israel rebelled against King Rehoboam after King Solomon's death, and made Jeroboam their king.  However, after accepting God's gift of the kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam treated God contemptuously by immediately setting up idols in his kingdom for his subjects to worship, rebelling against God's command against idolatry and causing the entire nation to sin: "After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.  And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.  Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.  He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made" (1 Kings 12:28-32, NIV).
            The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            What King Jeroboam did was a very serious sin.  Not only did he bring destruction on himself and his family by committing the very same sin that caused King Solomon to lose his kingdom, but he betrayed God and rebelled against him after God had given him a kingdom.  On top of that, he led the entire nation of Israel into sin against God, and his poor example continued among the Israelites for hundreds of years, until they were conquered by Assyria and exiled circa 722 BCE.  "When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin.  The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there" (2 Kings 17:21-23, NIV).  Jeroboam completely mismanaged his position as ruler of Israel and taught his son and heir Nadab to do the same, and his rebellious choice led to the nation's destruction.  This is why God pronounced a sentence of death on his family.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Conquest of Canaanite Cities (Joshua 6, 8)

The following quotes are taken from

"Destruction of Ai (Joshua 8:1-29)"

"Killing at Jericho - "When the people heard the sound of the horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the city from every side and captured it.  They completely destroyed everything in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, donkeys – everything."  (Joshua 6:20-21 NLT)

            These passages occur after Joshua began to lead the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan, the land that God had promised to give them.  You can read the full chapters here (to get a sense of the whole story, it would be best to read Joshua chapters 1-8):

            As mentioned in previous blog posts, these events were the fulfillment of what God had been telling the Israelites and the surrounding nations: the Israelites would take possession of the land of Canaan, the land that God had promised them, and the people of Canaan were to be killed if they did not repent and turn to God.
            So why did God command the destruction of Canaan, including the cities of Jericho and Ai?  The Hebrew word used in Joshua 6:17 is charam, meaning "the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering" [1].  Only God could decide when this type of devotion occurred, and it was always in response to a grievous sin that the person or people had committed against the Lord.  For example, when the Amalekites murdered all of the sick, weak and elderly people who were straggling behind the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, God commanded their destruction, and this same term - charam - is used (Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15:2-3).
            As mentioned in the previous blog post "The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan", these nations would have a very powerful and destructive influence on Israel if they were permitted to live among them.  As it happened, the Israelites failed to fulfill God's command and remove all of the surrounding nations - they intermarried with them and adopted their practices, which ultimately led to their destruction and exile to Assyria and Babylon centuries later (2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 36:14-21).  They broke their covenant with God and abandoned him, and so he withdrew his protection from them, as he had sworn he would.
            As for the destruction of Jericho and Ai, these were situations in which the people involved were in direct opposition to God.  They practiced incest and child sacrifice by fire - God gave them 400 years to repent, but they refused (Genesis 15:13-16; Deuteronomy 12:31).  They had full knowledge of God and what he had done for the Israelites (Joshua 2:8-11), but they neither repented nor offered a peace treaty with the Israelites; instead they were determined to fight them.  If they had repented and sought a peaceful solution instead of war, they would have been spared (Jeremiah 18:7-8).  The fact that God spared the Canaanite woman Rahab and her family, who allied themselves with the Israelites, proved that no one had to die (Joshua 6:25).
            As in previous passages, the command to kill the women and children is a difficult issue.  We must remember that the children would have grown up following the same customs and practices as their parents; they also would have been taught to hate Israel and seek their destruction, and would have been lost for eternity.  God took their lives in childhood to prevent this from occurring.
            As in previous passages, it should be noted that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:32).  However, there comes a time when his patience runs out and he abandons those who have rejected him to their fate.  The conquest of Jericho and Ai was such a time. 

[1] Footnote in the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  This term (charam) occurs in the following verses: Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 27:21, 28-29; Numbers 18:14; 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15-17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; 6:17-21; 7:1, 11-15; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39-40; 11:11-12, 20-21; 22:20; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8-9, 15, 18-21.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan (Exodus 23:20-33)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out."  (Exodus 23:23 NAB)

            This verse is part of a larger passage in which God gave instructions to the Israelites regarding the land that he had promised to give them.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            This passage is part of the speech in which God revealed the Law to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai, after God had saved the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  God warned the Israelites not to live amongst the nations in the land he was giving them, or else they would entice the Israelites into sin by encouraging them to worship idols, and thus break the covenant that they had made with God, who rescued them.
            Why would it have been such a threat for the Israelites to live among these nations?  These ancient nations were incestuous, barbaric and cruel.  They engaged in sexual intercourse with members of their own families, including parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, aunts/uncles and in-laws; and sex with animals.  The Canaanites especially engaged in cultic prostitution: each man and woman were forced to participate in the ritual at least once, which was believed to stimulate the fertility of the crops, animals and humans [1].  The prostitutes (male or female) would engage in sexual intercourse on a public altar or in front of a shrine, with whomever would give them money in exchange.  The Canaanites would give their firstborn daughters to the local pagan temples for this purpose.  They also practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing their children to their god Molech by burning them to death (Leviticus 18) [2].  "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31, NIV).
            It was for these reasons that God pronounced his sentence of judgment upon them.  "Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.  Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants" (Leviticus 18:24-25, NIV).  God gave these nations 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16).  Though the nations had knowledge of God and what he had done for the Israelites (Joshua 2:8-11), they refused to make peace with the Israelites or repent and turn to God.  If they had, God would have not destroyed them.  "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned" (Jeremiah 18:7-8, NIV; see also Jonah chapter 3).

[1] Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.  Pg. 53, 73, 89.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 88, 156.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Prophecy Against Edom (Ezekiel 35)

The following quote is taken from

"God Promises More Killing -  "I will make Mount Seir utterly desolate, killing off all who try to escape and any who return.  I will fill your mountains with the dead. Your hills, your valleys, and your streams will be filled with people slaughtered by the sword.  I will make you desolate forever. Your cities will never be rebuilt. Then you will know that I am the LORD."  (Ezekiel 35:7-9 NLT)

This chapter concerns God's prophecy against the nation of Edom.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            The nation of Edom was descended from a man named Esau (Genesis 36), the twin brother of Jacob, who was the father of the tribes of Israel.  From the time that Jacob tricked Esau and stole his birthright and blessing (Genesis chapters 25 and 27), the two nations were enemies.  The Edomites refused to let the Israelites pass through their land when the Israelites were journeying to the Promised Land, and came out against them with their army (Numbers 20:14-21).  Throughout Israel's history, they and the Edomites were often at war.
            In this passage, God pronounced his judgment on the nation of Edom, and gave clear reasoning for why they had brought this judgment upon themselves.  “‘Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you.  Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you" (Ezekiel 35:5-6, NIV).
            Even though the Edomites were related to the Israelites by blood, they had no compassion on them as they were being conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and even assisted those nations in destroying Israel.  To add insult to injury, the Edomites rejoiced in the Israelites' misery (Ezekiel 35:15; Obadiah 1:12), plundered and looted Jerusalem after its destruction (Obadiah 1:13), and mistreated those Israelites who survived the destruction of Jerusalem, cutting them down and handing them over to their enemies (Obadiah 1:14).  Because of all this, and because of their utter contempt for God, they would eventually cease to exist as a nation.  "Then you will know that I the Lord have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel. You said, 'They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour.'  You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it.  This is what the Sovereign LORD says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate.  Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you" (Ezekiel 35:12-15, NIV).